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Fun with Deals and Contracts

Jennifer Schaeffer (JD ’02) brings reality shows on air as an entertainment lawyer.

One of the strangest experiences Jennifer Schaeffer (JD ’02) has ever had on the job involved a lion and the rapper Flavor Flav. Schaeffer, who is a senior attorney at McKuin Frankel Whitehead LLP, was working on the Flavor of Love set where a lion had been negotiated for the day.

“I was hanging out with Flavor Flav and a lion!” Says Schaeffer with a laugh. “And Flav was sitting there feeding the lion.”

Although she interacts with celebrities frequently, she is quick to note that entertainment law is not all fun and games. Helping to bring reality shows such as Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch on air, Schaeffer deals with contracts, talent, production, and writer agreements. “I think the initial perception is that entertainment law is glamorous, but really it’s not. It’s long hours, and hard work; it’s all paperwork,” she says.

Some of the paperwork is background checks. “In all of the reality shows we do background checks on everyone before they go on the show. I know a lot more about background checks, and about people, than I ever wanted to.”

More often than not, her days revolve around clients’ emergencies. “You are the first one to know when something goes wrong on a set that you are overseeing,” she explains. “It could be at any time and it doesn’t matter what you’re doing because you’re on call all the time. In entertainment law, our day starts a little later and I generally have a schedule for what I’m going to do on any given day, but I’m never able to follow it. I’m probably on the phone 50-60 percent of the day, but at any moment anything can change. The biggest difference between entertainment law and other legal careers is that my days are emergency-based.”

Furthermore, the type of entertainment law that Schaeffer practices is purely transactional. “There are entertainment attorneys who do litigation, but my firm doesn’t—I haven’t seen the inside of a courtroom since my trial practice class in law school. Entertainment law is transactional, it’s negotiating with people, talking on the phone, building relationships within the entertainment community and with your client—essentially with clients you become a part of their team, and you surround this client to help them do the best for their career in this business.”

For all the hard work, she enjoys elements of her job, such as building relationships, meeting people from all different walks of life, and working on reality shows that make a difference. One such show was Three Wishes, where producer Andrew Glassman and singer/songwriter Amy Grant traveled around the country granting wishes to three deserving residents of small towns.

“The highlight of my career was working on that show,” says Schaeffer. “We did everything from helping a girl get surgery to put the steel plate that she needed in her head, to building a football field, to buying houses for soldiers in Iraq, and finalizing an adoption. It was truly making dreams come true. It was a show where I felt like my job was making a difference.”